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TWO VOICES: Mikhail Shishkin and Marian Schwartz in Conversation with Scott Esposito

Presented by the Center for the Art of Translation, Thursday, April 4, 2013, at the Hotel Rex, San Francisco, California. 

Mikhail Shishkin, the only Russian writer ever to win all three of his country's major book awards, joined Two Voices for his first ever U.S. appearance to discuss his novel Maidenhair. Widely praised from London to Paris to Berlin, Maidenhair finally reached the United States in 2012 by way of Open Letter Books.

In this event Shishkin was joined by his translator, Marian Schwartz, for a wide-ranging conversation with the Center's Scott Esposito. They began by discussing the Russian critical response to Maidenhair (with one critic vowing to eat his underwear in public if the book sold more than 50,000 copies—it did) before talking about Shishkin's relationship with his home country, the benefit of his years living in Switzerland, and why he claims he "hates" the Russian language.

Translator Schwartz delved in to the laborious process of translating Maidenhair. The book's frequent changes of tone (often within a single sentence) as well as its elaborate references (Shishkin gave Schwartz 40 pages of notes to consult) and compelling language made it one of the most difficult translations of Schwartz's long and illustrious career. Her translation included multiple, painstaking passes through the text, including a final pass where her husband read all of the book's 500 pages out loud while she followed along in the Russian original.

To listen, click here.